When life hands you lemons… throw them back

A character on the Simpsons once said, “When life hands you lemons, throw them right back.”
Hence the reason you’ve got to go with the flow during a big move and learn “on the job” so to speak. Here’s what I’ve learned about moving, so far.

1) It’s hard choosing a moving company, so go with your gut and do everything you can to protect yourself! I’ve read opinions on every moving company out there at epinions.com. Let me just say… the reactions were mixed at BEST. Not one moving company got a great rating. Everyone had the same complaints: not on time, took too long to load, scratched belongings, theft… just to name a few. I guess we could move it ourselves… but we’ve done that so many times, and we have so much furniture… it just doesn’t seem worth it, at least not for an interstate move. So I’ve decided to put my feelers out there and see what full-service moving companies can offer.

2) Buy insurance. My renters’ insurance doesn’t cover our stuff once it goes on a moving truck… so Andy and I will need coverage, just in case the truck never makes it to Austin. The government requires companies to provide $.60 per pound of coverage, but with 10,000 lbs, $6,000 would hardly be enough to cover our stuff in case of a major catastrophe. You know me… I tend to be cautious. Full-service movers will offer added coverage for an additional price, and it’s usually pretty reasonable. You have to ask for the service from self service movers, like PODS or ABF, but they usually contract through a third-party. As for UHAUL and RYDER… I have no idea.

3) Make sure you know everything about the moving company you’re about to hire! There are three categories of moving companies (in my opinion): self-service, full-service, and the internet/phone guys. The internet/phone guys get your name when you go out on the internet and ask a service like monstermoving.com to help you get bids. Some of the requests go to well-known companies… others are not well-know: the internet/phone ones. You should know that the way they operate is a little fishy. At least, I was suspicious when one called me one afternoon. Here’s how it worked… a guy called me from a call center somewhere (after getting my information online), and told me he wanted to give me an estimate on my move. He asked me to tell him what I am moving, room by room. He told me the cost would be lower because he was estimating over the phone, and that saves overhead. He said he would estimate the weight of my belongings on the high side and gave me an approximate weight and price. I would be required to pay a substantial down payment. I would find out the real price after the truck is weighed: the driver would call me and tell me exactly how much it would be while enroute to the new house in Austin. Now, I want to know who would be moving my stuff. The internet/phone dude said it would be one of their reputable “independent” contractors, and that everyone they use is good. But he couldn’t give me specifics. He also told me about some tarriff that would protect me, because apparently there was a Dateline special that uncovered how some companies were holding people’s stuff hostage until they paid their bill… which was substantially higher than the estimate. But the internet/phone guy assured me they weren’t like that.
Okay, there are a couple things wrong with this scenario. First of all, most reputable moving companies do NOT require a down payment. So don’t do it! The only reason the internet/phone guy wanted one was to secure my business with the company. Then, the company was going to take my move and put it out online for unknown movers to bid on.
Another thing… you should also know exactly what the price is BEFORE the truck is loaded. I’ve had two in-home FREE estimates so far, and they both gave me a GUARANTEED price. That means it won’t change, because they’ve already estimated the weight based on what they’ve SEEN in the house.
Besides… why should I have to tell someone what’s in the house over the phone? There’s a lot there to spout off. I could forget something… and I realized I did after I talked to the internet/phone guy… a gigantic steel shelving system we use in the kitchen as a pantry.
Oh, and guess what… they’re not any cheaper. The other two in-home estimates I received were both within $100 of the phone dude’s quote… and they won’t charge me more if the weight ends up being a little more than they estimated. (Unless I buy some big pieces of furniture between now and the move).
The internet/phone thing isn’t such a great deal after all, huh? It’s tempting to do everything over the internet these days, and in a lot of ways, the internet is wonderful… like for ordering boxes and getting opinions on van lines. But when it comes down to it, the internet and the phone can’t take the place of a good ole’ fashioned face-to-face meeting. And while it took time out of my day to meet with the moving company agents at the house, they were helpful and answered all of my questions. It’s a good thing to be able to look into the eyes of someone who wants to sell you a service that will cost thousands of dollars. Just keep that in mind the next time you move.